A-Rod scandal muddies MLB’s reputation as well as his own
The Major League Baseball (MLB) organization has a lesson to relearn. As MLB commissioner Bud Selig goes on a farewell tour to congratulate himself as the man who wiped performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) from the world of baseball, the MLB is covered in the blood of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez’s (A-Rod) baseball legacy, a mark that, years from now, will still look more sinister than any other PED scandal.
By now, the decision is well-known. Rodriguez will be suspended for 162 games and any potential playoff games. It is the longest PED suspension in baseball history, extending almost 60 games longer than the 105-game suspension handed to former Kansas City Royals infielder Miguel Tejada for amphetamine use in 2013.
The only real surprise, however, was that A-Rod did not receive the full 211-game sentence he was initially given. Selig found his last scapegoat for PEDs in Rodriguez and was above nothing in trying to nail down a massive suspension.
The years 2012 and 2013 were embarrassing for baseball’s fight against PEDs. After Milwaukee Brewer right fielder Ryan Braun was one of the first players caught by the MLB’s testing system, the positive test was scrapped when it was found there was a sample collection mistake in arbitration.
As the testing program once again proved to be ineffective, the MLB expanded its suspension policy beyond merely failing a drug test, to requiring proof that a player took PEDs. This plan has led to the MLB finding exactly zero players using PEDs.
Uncovering the recent Biogenesis scandal, in which several MLB athletes received PEDs from Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis of America, was not the genius work of the MLB. A former employee of the Biogenesis clinic released information to the media about the PED abuse.
The names of the players were released, and this proof led to 50-game suspensions for all involved with two exceptions. Braun took a 65-game suspension that had a lot to do with his first failed test, and then there was A-Rod, who promised to take this fight to arbitration and beyond. A-Rod has already admitted to using PEDs once in his career, but that was in the early 2000s and he was not suspended then. The listing of A-Rod in the Biogenesis scandal started an ugly, public war between A-Rod and the MLB.
The initial 211-game suspension levied on A-Rod was absurd. It seemed to be intentionally two times longer than the longest–ever PED suspension. Arbitration was able to reduce the suspension to a similarly unreasonable 162 games.
Each separate PED contributed a loss of 50 games for the first offense, and an additional 12 games — as well as playoff games — for obstruction. An entire season-long suspension for A-Rod was considered a huge win for the MLB over the players union, and Selig made sure everyone knew it.
The commissioner is set to retire after this season, so this final blow to PEDs was Selig’s swan song. It’s too bad he had to drag the union through the mud to do it. The MLB paid upwards of $125,000 for access to A-Rod’s medical records and put a witness on payroll. A-Rod lost 12 games and the playoffs for trying to pay the same person to tell his side of the story.
Later, it turned out that A-Rod’s attempted bribe might have been a billing error, but that is not the problem in this case. Both sides attempted to take the battle to the court of public opinion.
This public battle is where the MLB gets really ugly and shows a darker side of the spectacle. Strategic leaks and media reports by the MLB, designed to destroy A-Rod’s public image, forced the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLPBA) to suspend their defense of A-Rod, in order to remain in the public’s favor.
The MLB muscling the MLBPA out of the way takes the only defense the players have against the league completely out of the picture.
The actions of the MLB, such as stealing documents and compensating their star witness, Bosch, are not only questionable, but eerily reminiscent of the past.
Twenty years removed from a players strike, it appears the league has forgotten the animosity that once existed between players and owners in the MLB, and undermining the MLBPA might bring that attitude back. Selig attempted to pass a CBA with a salary cap and no arbitration, preventing the MLBPA from actually defending its players.
What the MLB did recently is not identical, but is quite similar to what happened in 1994.
By pulling the rug out from under the MLBPA in arbitration for A-Rod’s suspension, the MLB showed it will sink to deep depths in order to get its way and make sure the MLBPA has to publicly agree or risk falling out of favor and losing legal power and leverage.
This action would shift the power from the players back to the league and bring baseball back to a time not long ago when four work stoppages happened in less than 25 years — a large number for such a highly paid position.
A-Rod broke the rules and the players established a punishment for what happens when someone breaks the rules. He should have gotten that suspension.
The 162 games plus playoffs handed to him shows that the MLB would rather take down its targets than respect the unions designed to protect them.
The relationship between the players and owners cannot deteriorate once again due to the MLB’s power to outmuscle the MLBPA in arbitration, for fear of another period of work stoppages and off-field issues ruining baseball.
This case is also interesting when the government’s adherence to the law is considered. The MLB is a heavily publicly subsidized organization. There’s no reason a government–subsidized organization should be able to push around the union in ways that go directly against the spirit of labor laws in this nation.
As a Yankee fan, I look forward to $25 million being taken off the payroll and hopefully spent on pitching rather than a player who was past his prime and struck out nearly every at bat.
Baseball fans can only hope that the sport’s haunting past never rears its ugly head again. The lack of physical evidence that the MLB presented shows that it simply lacks the capability to catch players breaking the rules.
This inability is not an excuse to break the rules or to try and nail down faces of baseball scandals, and that kind of scapegoating should never have happened.
When Selig pretends to have taken PEDs out of baseball, he can also pat himself on the back for taking the trust between the players and the league out of baseball — again.